The rules document provides a framework for student effort, student team submittal requirements, and judging evaluation. The Class of 2022-2023 Rules have been released and can be accessed under Resources in HeroX.
The goal for each team is to design a solar-plus-storage system for a campus or district that maximizes energy offset and financial savings over the contracted or useful life of the system. Competition teams assess electric distribution grid interactions and assume the role of renewable energy systems developers to produce a power purchase agreement (PPA), lease, and/or cash purchase proposal for their division’s district.
The Solar District Cup has multiple divisions. Each division has a set of six teams competing against each other. Each team is tasked to design a solution for a use case of an existing mixed-use district or campus interested in increased distributed energy development. For most divisions, the competition organizers provide each team with the details of their division’s district use case. New for the class of 2022-2023, there is a division in which student teams identify their own defined district use case of electricity load and site data. A district use case is a defined area served by one or more electrical distribution feeders with a collection of spaces potentially available for PV installation, including but not limited to: building rooftops, facades, open land, parking, agricultural dual use, bodies of water, and other facilities.
WHAT TEAMS DO AND WIN
Teams submit two deliverables: a Progress Deliverable Package and a Final Deliverable Package.
A team competes against other teams in their division at a final competition event. Competition organizers assign teams to divisions upon registration. Each team designs its own solution for the assigned division’s district use case. The strongest team concepts are those that maximize the district’s energy offset and financial savings over the system’s contracted or useful lifetime while integrating aesthetic, infrastructure, and community considerations. A team wins based on its average score as determined by a panel of three to five judges who evaluate the competition entries through review of deliverable packages and presentations. The first-place winners of each division compete against each other to determine a Project Pitch winner.
As competitors, students:
- Gain experience with innovative renewable energy design
- Develop real-world solutions that shape the future of solar energy
- Engage with industry professionals to forge relationships and connections that aid participating students’ transition to the solar energy workforce upon graduation
- Compete to earn a trophy and national recognition.
HOW JUDGING WORKS
A qualified panel of three to five judges—comprising subject-matter experts and representatives from the partner district use cases selected by the competition organizers—score finalist submissions according to the extent to which they agree that the content and formatting requirements were met and with the solution aligns with the judging statements listed below:
- PROJECT PROPOSAL - The proposal presents a clear and concise summary of the project. Both the proposal and the presentation make a compelling case as to why the proposed solution is the best choice for the district given its needs, constraints, and goals.
- CONCEPTUAL SYSTEM DESIGN - Conceptual system design proposes a creative and innovative solution that demonstrates excellent analysis, system design, optimal battery use strategy, and and understanding of the PV hosting capacity with distribution constraints.
- FINANCIAL ANALYSIS - Financial analyses communicates a strong grasp of renewable energy project finance. Input assumptions are justifiable, calculations are correct, battery-operation strategy delivers maximum economic benefits, and pricing and rate of return are attractive to the market. The outputs of both the battery analysis and the customer savings analysis are included as tabs to the Excel-based financial model.
- DEVELOPMENT PLAN - Proposed building, site, construction, and development plans with any rezoning adds significant value in a comprehensive, actionable, and feasible approach for the district and surrounding community members with distributional equity.
Teams participating for a full academic year are expected to submit two deliverables: a Progress Deliverable Package and a Final Deliverable Package. Teams that submit the progress deliverable receive feedback from the organizer staff. Student teams participating for the spring semester (or winter/spring quarters) compete within their own division and submit only the Final Deliverable Package. These packages are summarized in Table 1 and Table 2 of the Rules and are described in greater detail in the appendices. Competition deliverables are submitted via the online HeroX competition platform.
Progress Deliverable Package—Solar PV System
- A complete submission for the progress deliverable is the design and analysis of interconnected solar PV systems that maximize energy offset and savings over the system’s contracted or useful lifetime for the district use case.
Final Deliverable Package—Solar PV Plus Battery Electric Storage System
- The Final Deliverable Package includes a complete conceptual design, modeling, and analysis of a proposed interconnected solar PV plus battery electric storage system that maximizes energy offset and savings during the system’s contracted or useful lifetime for the division district, given its use case parameters and conditions.
The Solar District Cup invites participation of teams comprising of at least three students enrolled in accredited U.S.-based collegiate institutions. Students must be enrolled in at least one class and be pursuing a degree for the duration of the competition. Students who graduate in the middle of the competition timeline may continue on the team as a mentor and contributor; they may contribute to the modeling, analysis, and deliverable components; however, they may not present to the judges in the final competition event. Students and faculty advisors are not required to be U.S. citizens at the time of the competition. Members of the judging panels, competition organizer staff, and U.S. Department of Energy and national laboratory employees are ineligible to compete.
Although any level of collegiate student is eligible to compete, the challenge scope is intended for multidisciplinary teams of upper-level undergraduate students. Student participation may be integrated into senior design or capstone project, count as elective or independent study course credit, be added to the curriculum of existing classes, treated as a seminar topic, engaged as part of a student interest club, or be an extracurricular student activity.
Each team is encouraged to have at least one faculty advisor, but this is not required for participation. Teams are also encouraged to connect with mentors inside or outside their school. If a team of students needs assistance in identifying a faculty advisor or mentor, they can contact the competition organizers for help.
By uploading a deliverable package, a team certifies that it is in compliance with the eligibility requirements. If the organizers become aware that a team or individual is not eligible, that team may be disqualified from competition.
Please see the Class of 2022-2023 Rules.